A Lullaby For The Lost

Chapter 20: Back to the Murder Capital of the World

Chapter 20: Back to the Murder Capital of the World

Los Gatos headlines had screamed “Wild Dog Attack Kills Local Woman In Her Home”. No mention was made of werewolves. Folks in Los Gatos were naïve to that sort of lore. Naturally, after the tragedy, Sam was given custody of Leah. He packed up both of their belongings, and at least for the time being, until he could find them a place of their own, moved them into Grandpa’s house.

He still hadn’t told the Frog brothers what had happened to him the night on the pier, and he didn’t know if he could bring himself to. It would have been one thing for them to have known about his little coke problem. It was something else for them to know he’d gone to the dogs. Sam didn’t know what bothered him more, the idea of the Frogs knowing that he was a werewolf now, or his daughter’s constant requests to ‘go see Paul and Dwayne?’

That was one he couldn’t quite stomach. That, and the way Grandpa kept looking at him. Like he wanted to stuff him when he wolfed out, or something…

Mom had explained everything to Grandpa. It wasn’t like it was either of their faults. Leah had been attacked by ‘TeenWolf’. He’d protected his daughter from being kiddie raped by a wolf cop, of all things! What was he supposed to do, let the bastard yump his kid right in front of him? He only hoped his senile old grandfather would have had the sense to do the same damn thing, or at least stuff the fucker right then and there!

The only saving grace was that Leah seemed to hardly remember any of the night of the incident on the pier. She had a few more memories of the night her mother died, but they were rather selective. It seemed that when wolves shifted to and fro on full moon nights, particularly when young, newly made, or very old, their memories were vague. Sam could be thankful for that. His own memories after his bite; and of his first nights in transformation weren’t crystal clear, either. He did seem to remember something about Laddie drinking wine and becoming a vampire….

Yet it seemed surreal, like maybe it had been a dream. Something told him it wasn’t, though.

Before Sam could be settled in his new life as a werewolf, two things would need to be accomplished. Because he’d been made in Santa Carla, he belonged to the Santa Carla pack. He would need to establish himself and Leah here, and introduce them to the others. This, he suspected wouldn’t be too hard. Perhaps, he’d look up the boy that had bit Leah, and introduce them to his family.

The hard part would be telling Michael. Once upon a time, Michael had begrudgingly told him that he was a half vampire…

Okay, so it was only because Sam had noticed his faded reflection in the mirror after Mike had tried to attack him in the bathtub….

But, still, Mike hadn’t lied to him. Mike wouldn’t.

He owed it to his older brother to tell him everything. Michael was still poised on the other end of the phone in Phoenix, waiting for any news on Leah. Maybe he should tell him first. It was time to stop being a chickenshit.

Sam grabbed his cell phone and took it out to the relative quiet of the sun porch. The afternoon shadows were fading into evening, and he wrapped a blanket around himself to ward off the chill of the oncoming night. Then, he pressed the speed dial button for Michael’s number and waited for him to pick up. One of his nephews answered, and for the life of him, he didn’t know which one it was.

“Hey, buddy, which one am I talking to?” he asked, trying to sound jovial.

“Depends. Who am I talking to?”

“It’s your Uncle Sammy.”

“Oh. I’m Zach.”

“Are you sure you’re not Chris?”

“Not the last time I checked…”

“Okay, Zach, is your Dad home?”

“Just a sec’”

“Hey, Chris! Go Get Dad…”

“You go get him! I’m doing my homework!”

“Hold on a minute, Uncle Sammy. I have to go get him…”

Sam rubbed his ears. The whole exchange between his twin nephews had been done in loud decibels that might not have bothered him before, but it seemed to him that his hearing was more sensitive now.

After a few moments, Sam could hear a heavier tread of footsteps approaching the phone, and he knew it was Michael.

“Sammy?” his brother said.

“Mike…” Sam started.

“Mom called and told us about Leah. Why didn’t you call before now?”

“Mom called you? Did she tell you everything?”

“Everything? What else is there to know? She said that Leah’s been found and that you helped the cops find her! That’s fantastic, Sammy! Why didn’t you tell us?”

“God, Mike…so much has happened since then. That’s not the whole story…You’d better sit down.”

“What happened?”

“Jennifer’s been murdered, Mike.”

“What? Jennifer? As in Leah’s mom?”

“Yes, as in Leah’s mom. It just happened a couple of days ago. Her funeral is tomorrow. The shock is still wearing off.”

“How the hell was she murdered?”

“This is where it gets messy. See, I didn’t find Leah. She found me. Mike….Leah was…attacked. By…a werewolf…”

“By a what?” Michael asked.

“Mike, don’t sit there and pretend that you don’t believe in them when you used to be a creature of the night…well, at least a half of one…They exist, just like vampires do. We just never saw them until Leah became one,” Sam explained.

“Are you trying to tell me that my niece is a werewolf?”

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you. But, it’s not her fault, Mike. She…didn’t know what had happened to her, and she was wandering around the hills of Santa Carla, scared and….well, y’know…wolfed out…until she finally found me on New Year’s Eve on the pier,” Sam explained.

He purposely left out the part about the vampires. Somehow, he felt it wise not to drag in any reference to Michael’s old gang and the fact that they were alive….well sort of alive…and well, at this point. Really, that fact was trivial.

“This is crazy,” Michael muttered.

“It gets crazier,” Sam said.

“How could it get any crazier?”

“Some of the cops investigating the case are werewolves, too. They knew what happened to Leah, and intentionally covered it up. They wanted us to think she drowned so we wouldn’t look any further. But, you know the Frog brothers. They smelled smoke, and they convinced me to dig deeper. So, I did. That’s why I stuck around so long. There were a few others that smelled a rat, too. Remember Laddie, the kid that went missing with Star and the vampires? He didn’t trust the story, either. He’s working as the supervisor of boardwalk security, now. Well, we all put our heads together and came up with a whole new theory…”

“Involving werewolves,” Michael stated.

“Mike, we were right. On New Year’s Eve, when Leah found me, she wasn’t in human form. And, the cops were chasing her down, too. One of them wolfed out…and….”

“And what?” Michael asked.

“Tried to subdue her. In the most hideous way. Michael, he was yumping on her! Well, I couldn’t tolerate that, so I tried to knock him off of her. The bastard bit me!”

“What?”

“He Bit me, Mike. You know what that means; don’t you? Now, I’m just like Leah. Do you know what I’m saying?”

“Sam, I think you’ve been snorting a bit too much rock there..”

“Fuck you. Ask Mom yourself. And, while you’re at it, why don’t you pick up a copy of the Los Gatos Times and read the front page from January 7th! Jennifer’s death made the front fucking page, asshole. A pack of wild dogs broke into her home and ripped her apart! Wild dogs, Mike! You wanna know why? Because they wanted Leah, that’s why. She’s not a Los Gatos native werewolf, because she was whelped in Santa Carla! I was chased out of San Jose for the same damn reason on the first night of the full moon….”

“Well, Sammy, I just have to be fair. The first thing you asked me when I woke up from my initiation night was ‘Are you freebasing? Inquiring minds want to know…”

“I was a kid who didn’t know shit from shinola. When I saw what you were and realized it for the truth, I accepted it, even if I did call you a God damned, shit sucking vampire! Did I not say I’d stick by you? Did I not do so?”

“Yeah, Sammy, I’ll say you did. So, you really are an honest to God werewolf?”

“I guess so. Believe me, bro, this isn’t easy for me to accept. It’s not easy for Leah, either. She just saw her mother murdered by the very thing we turn into once a month. She and I are making a pledge to try not to kill people. If we can stick to it, we will.”

“Jesus, Sam, do you think you have killed anyone?”

‘I-I don’t know, Mike. I can’t remember anything, and it bugs me. I’d rather not think about it. But, we’re just going to stick to the woods where not many people live, so that we can avoid temptation. I’ve since read that we can do that. Werewolves can subsist on game and livestock, too. That’s why they’re so rarely seen.”

“Thank God for that. Do you suppose that’s what Leah did while she was missing?”

Sam gulped for air for a moment.

“She doesn’t remember. But I imagine so. It’s all she could have done.”

The hardest part was over, and Sam was relieved. For better or for worse, he had told Michael, and it seemed that his brother understood, and was on the road to understanding it, even if he didn’t completely accept it yet.

Now, he had one last errand to run. With a tentative smile, he folded up his cell phone and stepped back into the house to fetch Leah. The smell of spaghetti sauce assailed his nostrils the minute he walked into the kitchen. The aroma was enough to draw his grandfather out of his taxidermy room.

“Wow, what’s with the fancy fixings?” Sam asked.

“Oh, I’ve invited Lt. Chelli over for dinner as a thank you for all the fine work he did,” Lucy answered.

“Company? We’re having company over for dinner again?” Grandpa groused.

“Dad, we haven’t had company over for dinner since Max came over twenty years ago,” Lucy replied with a faint smile.

“Right. And now we’re having company again?”

“Uh, I’d like to stay, Mom, but Leah and I have some business to take care of,” Sam stated.

“You’re not staying?” Lucy questioned.

“Well, we would have if we’d known in advance. I promise, we’ll try to keep it brief and be back on time, but, it’s just such short notice…”

“Well, okay sweetie. Just do your best.”

^..^

Sam found the Lt. Mayor’s address in the residential listings in the white pages. How convenient that those holding public offices usually had their home numbers and addresses listed. He also found that the drive was not very far. The Martinez residence was only three houses away, but in their neck of the woods, that amounted to nearly a mile.

Leah clutched a battered, chewed up stuffed kitten in her arms. Sam had no idea why she insisted on bringing it, but he didn’t argue the point. He parked his vehicle in the circular driveway of the impressive ranch style home, and looked around before getting out. No other cars were parked in the driveway, but lights burned inside the house. Leah opened her door and dashed up to the front porch before he had a chance to stop her. As soon as she rang the doorbell, the massive oaken front door opened, and a teenaged boy wearing baggy jeans and a hoodie sweatshirt appeared in the doorway. They quietly studied each other for a few moments. Then, the boy broke out in a broad grin, but tears leaked out of his deep, brown eyes.

“I’m so sorry I hurt you. I’ve been looking for you…hoping I’d see you again, so I could tell you!”

“I had some friends protect me. There were some bad cops that tried to hurt me,” she told him sincerely, “And then, some bad wolves broke into my house and killed my mommy!”

The boy looked puzzled at this development. His gaze traveled up and he met Sam’s eyes for the first time.

“Oh, yeah, and one of the bad cops turned my Daddy into a werewolf, too!” Leah added.

“Holy smokes!” the boy cried.

“Why don’t the two of you come inside?”

A man appeared at the door behind the teenager, who could only be his father. The boy moved aside, and the man motioned for Sam and Leah to follow him in. Once seated in the family room, they found themselves surrounded by the rest of the Martinez family; the wife, and two daughters. The Mrs. was introduced as Adelina, and the girls were Gabriella and Miranda. The teenaged boy was Jake, and the Mr, of course, was the Lt. Mayor, David Martinez. Sam found it hard to believe that they were a family of werewolves; yet when he gazed at himself and his daughter, it was hard to think of himself and his little girl as werewolves, either.

“There was an article in the paper about Jennifer. It stuck out when it said she was survived by her daughter, Leah Emerson. Please, let me extend my condolences. Our pack will rightfully be exacting revenge on them for what they’ve done,” David Martinez told Sam.

“You can do that?” Sam asked.

“We can do that. Indeed so. Leah is one of our own, and so, in fact, are you now. It was only a matter of time before you found your way to us. Though Jennifer was mortal, her death was a senseless killing, and it was done in a fashion that was…how shall we say…not permissible. There are rules. You will both be expected to learn them. When we kill, we do not leave bodies for the police to find. We bury our kills. It is our way. The only exception to the rule is when we kill wild game or livestock. Such killings as these often get blamed on coyotes, bobcats, or wild wolves, so why bother? Even though Jennifer was killed within their territory, she was the kin of one of our pack, so retribution is our right. We will take our petition to the Elder at the next full moon.”

“I don’t want my daughter to be a part of this,” Sam insisted.

“No. She is a feisty one, but she still has much to learn. Leah will only be hunting game and small livestock until she comes of age. Furthermore, she will only be allowed to hunt with the pack,” Martinez told him.

“I don’t ever want to hunt people. I heard them eating my Mommy,” Leah murmured.

“That is purely your decision.”

“I see you got the kitten I left you,” Jake said with a smile.

“You left me this? I thought it must be you…Why did you give me this after you bit me?” she asked.

“I told you. I was really sorry about what I did. Sometimes, when moon madness hits, you don’t have control over what you do. You’ll soon see for yourself if you haven’t already. I hope you don’t ever lose control like I did,” Jake explained to her.

“So you lied about that toy drive at school!” Gaby exclaimed.

“You wouldn’t quit bugging me. Sometimes, I wish you’d just stay out of my business,” Jake retorted.

“That’s enough, you two,” Adelina admonished.

‘God, this is just like any other house’, Sam thought to himself.

“Did your mouth get better?” Leah asked innocently.

“Yeah, I’m okay now.”

“I found out what it was that burned you. It was the necklace my Aunt Star gave me. It saved my life that night; and knowing that saved my life again when those wolves came and killed my Mommy. She had a jewelry box in her room full of silver and stuff, and I ran in there and piled everything on that I could, and then I hid in the closet. I just wish that my Mommy didn’t take off all her jewelry when she gets home from work. If she was still wearing any, maybe she would have lived too…”

“You’re lucky the silver didn’t burn the crap out of you,” Jake told her.

“Well, there was other stuff too. Plastic beads, gold…I just grabbed everything. Maybe the silver wasn’t touching my skin. I don’t know. I didn’t have time to sort through and only take the silver. I just piled it all on.”

“Now, that’s way smart. Good going!” Miranda interjected, popping a huge piece of bubble gum, “Hey, Dad. When you go waste the Los Gatos werewolves, will Gaby, Jake and I get to come?”

“Absolutely not,” Martinez said sternly.

“Rats,” the girl muttered.

“Sam, the next full moon starts on February 1st. We’ll need to have several meetings before then. You and Leah will need to meet the Elder. Plan on meeting us here twice a week, starting on…well….see, today is the 9th, so let’s meet again on the 12th. That’s Friday. Around 7?”

“Friday at 7 is fine,” Sam replied.

“Once again, you have my sincerest condolences. I wish there was more I could say. Just know that actions speak louder than words,” Martinez stated. Sam was quick to notice the predatory gleam in his eye.

^..^

A bug’s life was a slow, boring existence, with hardly a chance to bring fear into the lives of anyone it encountered, lest it be found beneath the pillow or doing the backstroke in the soup of some unsuspecting mortal, yet this was the only mortal shell the fear demon could find to enter into once it had been forced out of the hellhound.

But, at least it was a life. And, it could easily encounter a better chance as it ambled along, munching on leaves…

Unless it was spotted from above.

What an unhappy day! A bird would have been a better mortal shell if this particular fear demon didn’t have a loathing for air. The moment the bird spotted the beetle on the leaf and scooped it up in its beak, the demon knew it was done for. Valiantly, it tried to shift into the bird’s body, but fear overcame it. Then, back into the beetle’s body it went…where fear still reined supreme…

And then the bird devoured the beetle, and the demon.

The demon, unable to tolerate being inside the bird’s body, had no place to go, but out…

Until it ran out of time.